I had made plans recently, quite important plans in many ways, ones that would have altered the things I might expect to change most days of the week pretty radically for many years. I had discussed the ideas around these plans with many people, friends and professional advisers and family. I still have those plans in place and I am hopeful that something may come of them but last night something happened that has blown a hole through my plans and now they are fundamentally challenged.
A guiding principle of my life has been that discerning the will of God in all things is fundamental and should guide all that I do. For most things this is quite insignificant really. I mean how I trim my whiskers may not be high on the Infinite’s agenda but He may have an opinion I suppose. Yet in the matter of what I do with my time, then that may be of great significance to Him.
There are times when we put in a good deal of effort to understand what God wants us to do. It is a question that is as old as we are; “what should I do?” This question, or more precisely the desperate seeking of advice that flows from it, has allowed sorcerers, astrologers, statisticians and many a religion to become wealthy. It has given quite a few ‘agony aunts’ a living and can give rise to sects dictators and war.
This desire that we have, to want to know what we ‘should’ do, is an important desire. The principles that we decide upon to guide us in getting the answer to the question shapes our lives greatly. If you are immoral and find it acceptable to exploit other people, then what you should do might involve getting what you want at everyone else’s expense. If you consider yourself to be a little bit more moral maybe you would still want to get it at another person’s others expense but desire not make it obvious. This is the choice that I think most of us go for and it is the choice of preference in senior clergy circles, often.
Then there are those of us, psychotics perhaps, who believe that a God exists, who want us, indeed commands us, to behave according to His rules, his principles. This is the way that I understand the God of the book, Yahweh, the God that became incarnate in Christ Jesus.
The rules that Yahweh has set out for us are there to be argued and debated about. Nothing in religion and ethics is ever straight forward. But for me the fundamental law is this; To love thy neighbour as thyself. To that end any plans that I may entertain cannot involve the suffering of others, and as a very peculiar socialist I also believe that nothing I do should disadvantage my fellow human being as far as I am able to influence matters.
However that question “what should I do?” remains a thorny one, even for this Christian cat. The plans that I make in my mind are mine and the truth is, I don’t have any way of knowing how the future will turn out. And nor does anyone else, despite their certainty. The evangelical nutter who is convinced that everyone else is going to hell really is a psychotic. He does not know that for certain and those who believe him are deluded.
The truth is that we cannot know the future, we can only guess at what may come to pass. Our plans are transient at best, constantly needing to be changed and rearranged. What we do, when we become fixated on a plan, is to become inflexible and fixed, unavailable for change and unable to listen to the voice of God, who is going to share with you a better plan.
God reveals Himself to us in the moment, and He does this constantly. We need to be ready to respond to his revelation and whilst plans may give us clues to prepare for tomorrows eventualities, we are fools if we worship our own ideas.
Like Abraham, we should be prepared, but God may surprise us.
It was Abraham who was prepared to sacrifice his son, he believed it was God’s will. God changed the plan and lamb chops were on the menu that evening instead.